Now that the 2020 Democratic convention is in full swing despite the pandemic, I thought it a good time to revisit another Democratic convention, circa 1960. I’ve posted this previously but I thought it a good time to remind folks of a few things, such as the fact that not all badass movie stars are conservative Republicans. So without further ado…..

The 1960 Democratic Convention…..with Lee Marvin?
In researching Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I encountered many surprises, not the least of which was the actor’s personal politics. The popular theory was that in being such a macho tough guy on screen, he must have been a conservative Republican, like his frequent co-star John Wayne. Not so, in Marvin’s case, according to friends and family.

Fans may think of him as a classic badass who thought like Wayne, but the truth is he was, by all accounts, a lifelong liberal Democrat who despised Republican stalwarts, such as costar Ronald Reagan, as mentioned at length in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Marvin rarely made his politics publicly known but he felt so strongly for candidate John F. Kennedy, he agreed to appear on stage at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in support along with several other like-minded celebrities of the day (Ralph Bellamy, Lloyd Bridges, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Tony Curtis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Rosemary DeCamp, Anthony Franciosa, George Jessel, Phyllis Kirk, Hope Lange, Peter Lawford, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine, Mercedes MacCambridge, Sheree North, Arthur O’Connell, Alma Pedroza, Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Jan Sterling, Inger Stevens, Shelley Winters).

Lee Marvin takes his bow when introduced on stage at the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

Marvin warbles the national anthem along with the likes of Nat ‘King” Cole, Shirley MacLaine and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Kennedy’s assassination during the filming of The Killers devastated the cast & crew and made for a poignant and ironic event in Marvin’s relationship with his son, also recounted in Lee Marvin Point Blank. He would never again publicly endorse a political candidate. But, in the heady days of 1960, his endorsement of JFK was shown in full flower with other Hollywood celebrities, as shown in the video below.  Enjoy…
– Dwayne Epstein


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The ongoing controversy surrounding the candidacy, election, and now presidency of Donald Trump has raised the question (in my mind at least), what would Lee Marvin had thought of him? Before I go any further with that thought, allow me to give an important disclaimer: I never met Lee Marvin personally, therefore I am no expert on his politics, nor am I any kind of political expert, per se. In the words of Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers.
However, while researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank, I think I can come to some logically conclusions. Granted, there were not any candidates like Donald Trump when Lee Marvin was alive, but there is a way of confirming Marvin’s political viewpoint which is stated in detail in the book.

Ned Wynn, son of Lee Marvin’s best friend, Keenan Wynn said this:

Keenan Wynn (left) and lifelong best friend Lee Marvin shown in their dirt bike days. They shared many things, including their political viewpoints.

“I think politically correct thinking would have driven him nuts. Guys like him and my dad were the furthest thing from that kind of thing… but like most people in Hollywood he was a Democrat. Most people in Hollywood are more reflexive Democrats. My dad and Lee weren’t like that. They weren’t what you call ‘Limousine Liberals.’ They weren’t knee-jerk reactionaries. They were big on taking responsibility for your actions, even if they themselves always didn’t… because Democrats react more from emotion and actors have to deal with things on an emotional level. Realistically, they tempered their point of view. If they were alive today, you wouldn’t see them at an abortion rally or showing up at an awards show with a red ribbon on their lapels. Lee didn’t go in for the belief that humans were perfect. He knew they were flawed.”

Marvin’s overall political leaning was best described by his friend and neighbor George Rapaport: “As I say, there were times when he was absolutely one of the greatest guys. When he was really lucid and off the stuff, and feeling good, you couldn’t find a better guy to talk with. I mean really, we had some really nice conversations, about everything. …He was very much a liberal guy. …No, you would figure the macho guys were always like the rednecks things, and all. But that’s not true…That’s why I say on the inside he was as soft as a pillow. He really cared about people and he cared about issues. He always took a more liberal attitude. I don’t think he was left of Lenin, or anything like that. He wasn’t to the right, I know that. He was a little bit off to the left. He really cared about, I think, what was going on. He always did and he stood up for it.”

Ronald Reagan (with his back to the camera) is confronted by Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager in THE KILLERS.

Probably the most prominent conservative Republican Lee Marvin ever worked with was Ronald Reagan. Granted, Reagan was not nearly as extreme as Donald Trump. However, he was a former actor/personality who cashed in on that popularity for a political career that ended him up in the White House.

What was Marvin’s opinion of Reagan, whom he worked with several times? Career-long agent Meyer Mishkin: ” You know, funny thing with him and working actors, was that he got along with working actors, as far as I know. But once, in the early days, he was doing a show with Reagan, G.E. Theater, or something like that. I said to him, ‘What do you think of Ronald Reagan?’ He said, ‘He’s a jerk.’

All that said, the logical conclusion would be for any one to assume Lee Marvin would not be a supporter of Donald Trump. How do I know? Probably the single best shred of evidence is shown below. Knowing how Marvin felt about the military, as well as his strong dislike of any sign of phoniness, could there be any doubt what Marvin would have thought of Trump? I don’t think so.

The New York Daily News cover from the Summer of 2015 that best explains why Lee Marvin would NOT be a Trump supporter.

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The great Clu Gulager turned 88 years-old on November 16th. In honor of that auspicious event, I chose a never-before-seen excerpt from my interview with him back in January, 1997. It took place on a frosty morning at the Farmer’s Market and he could not have been nicer nor more forthcoming.
Having worked with Lee Marvin in 1964’s The Killers, directed by Don Siegel, Clu Gulager’s input was invaluable to my research to LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK. One of the many stories he imparted that I could not fit into the final version of the book had to do with a scene in the film between Marvin, Gulager and future president, Ronald Reagan in his last acting role. Throughout most of the movie, Gulager and Marvin’s characters had been bullying people to get information. When they get to Reagan, the script called for a secretary in Reagan’s outer office to try and stop them before they get to Reagan. Marvin believed it would be a waste of screen time as the audience would’ve already seen them do it previously in the film. Reagan disagreed as it would be taking lines away from a fellow actor, in this case, the secretary. Director Siegel came up with a compromise in which the actress is shown trying to stop them as they barrel through into Reagan’s office. Gulager had told me that version as seen below. However, when he spoke at Santa Monica’s Aero Theater after a screening of the film, he told a much more colorful version of the same story, adding that actress in question was actually Reagan’s paramour (!)

(L-R) Moderator Jim Hemphill, Point Blank producer Jud Bernard, yours truly, Christopher Marvin and Clu Gulager on stage at the Aero Theater as Gulager gives a VERY different version of the story below.

(L-R) Moderator Jim Hemphill, Point Blank producer Jud Bernard, yours truly, Christopher Marvin and Clu Gulager on stage at the Aero Theater as Gulager gives a VERY different version of the story below.

Dwayne Epstein: OK, on The Killers
Clu Gulager: Let me tell you about that. We came in to do our thing. Where we had to go into the offices of Reagan. I knew nothing of what Don said in his book about this- the lady being Reagan’s sweetheart. I knew nothing about that. Obviously, it had occurred. I think maybe that ticked off Lee because he was pissed off about something. I know they stopped us. It didn’t make any sense to stop us there with the secretary. She said something and then came on. We would have just swept right in there. We wouldn’t let anyone get in out way, apparently.

Lee Marvin's son, Christopher meets up with Clue Gulager who he had not seen since he was a child.

Lee Marvin’s son, Christopher, meets up with Clue Gulager, whom he had not seen since he was a child.

Dwayne: Which was Lee’s idea. He just wanted to rush right into the office.
Clu: Which is the best way. (mimes Lee) “Watch what I’m going to do here”. Lee would rehearse it. We rehearsed it once. Reagan sat behind his desk and Lee did it a certain way in the first rehearsal. Reagan acted a certain way. We rehearsed it again for lights and so forth, so Lee did it another way. He did another interpretation. Mr. Reagan did exactly the same thing he did in the first take. No matter what Lee would do, he would do exactly the same reactions. He had it all planned in his mind. So, we did it a third time, a very complex shot that needed a third rehearsal with the lights and sound, actors up to par, dress rehearsal. Lee did it another way and Reagan did exactly the same thing. Lee said of Reagan at the time, “That guy couldn’t act worth shit. He couldn’t act his way out of a fucking paper bag.” In other words what Lee was saying to me was that you really ride with the situation of the scene. It’s not all preplanned. You have to kind of give and take a little to make it more of a …he was saying that Mr. Reagan didn’t have the ability and so forth. I happened to think, my observation, I loved what Ron did in the scene. I loved what he did in the film. They may have cut out a lot of shit, I don’t know. Whatever they left in, I thought worked for Reagan. Anyway, he was really adamantly against it, Mr, Reagan. I never understood why until I read Don’s book.
Dwayne: Siegel’s book comments on the same incident. I got the sense from other people that Lee’s dislike of Reagan happened even before the movie started. I think they may have worked before together in TV.
Clu: Oh, a lot. What makes me think this is maybe Lee was, I mean Don was stretching it a bit. I don’t believe at that point, Reagan fooled around on his wife. I do not believe that he did. That’s my recollection. I knew him a little bit and I knew her. They were very much in love and I do not believe he had a girl out there who was his paramour and so forth. I didn’t believe it. I don’t believe that Reagan would have stopped the scene and said “Don, I stopped this and I’ll walk off unless….”. I don’t believe it.
Dwayne: Unless I misinterpreted, I remember it as being Reagan, having been SAG president, was very big that every actor gets their line and the woman had several lines. The way Lee wanted to do it, just walk right through. Siegel had said he thought Reagan got on a soapbox; “I’ve never seen such as thing where an actor takes lines out of another actor’s mouth”, etc.
Clu: It happens all the time and it should happen. We know what’s best. Actors are very instinctive.

Clu Gulager signs my copy of Lee Marvin: Point Blank in the lobby of the Aero Theatre. Behind him are (L-R) publisher Tim Schaffner, Lee's daughter Cynthia Michaels, Christopher Marvin, and Cynthia's son, Lee's only grandchild, Matthew Michaels.

Clu Gulager signs my copy of Lee Marvin: Point Blank in the lobby of the Aero Theatre. Behind him are (L-R) publisher Tim Schaffner, Lee’s daughter Cynthia Michaels, Christopher Marvin, and Cynthia’s son, Lee’s only grandchild, Matthew Michaels.

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